Most companies with a website are probably guilty of claiming on their website and internet marketing activities that they are ‘the best’ in their field. However this will be a risky claim to make from 1st March 2011 when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) extend the advertising rules around making these claims to include online advertising. Continue Reading
Author: Kath Dawson
2010 was a busy year for search and particularly Google who have upped their game yet again. In this post we’ll review some of the major highlights for SEO in the last year.
New Ranking Factor Announced: Page Load Time
In April 2010 Google announced that the speed your page loads for a visitor is a factor considered in their ranking algorithm. Basically if your page loads slowly then you’ll drop down the rankings. Don’t panic though, its only likely to affect really slow loading sites but keep your eye on this factor and if you are in a very competitive market and your rankings are slipping this could be an area to improve.
The Bing-Yahoo Integration
In the USA the integration was complete and Yahoo’s independent index was retired thus giving Bing a leap in market share. Of course they are so far behind Google that they cannot be compared at all however Bing is now a competitor worthy of attention.
Google’s May Day (or Brand) Update
Google applies an extremely complex algorithm which takes into consideration hundreds and hundreds of different factors and they are constantly tweaking and improving it to ensure that the results presented are the best they can be. Sometimes there are more significant tweaks, or algorithm updates, that have a more dramatic affect. The May Day update resulted in many websites losing long tail traffic (up to 10 percent or more). The sites that suffered seemed to have a low number of deep links. The winners were “high quality” sites and big brands.
This was not an algorithm update although its often confused as one especially as it was introduced close to the May Day Update. Caffeine was an infrastructure change which related purely to speeding up the indexing system. Caffeine allowed new content to be indexed almost instantly rather than in batches which was slower.
In September Google Instant impacted the user experience in a very noticeable way by showing suggested search phrases as you typed your phrase into the search box. The idea being that if you saw what you wanted appearing in the list then you wouldn’t need to finish typing. It wasn’t just the suggestions popping up that was so noticeable it was the fact that all the results changed as you typed too – it could be quite distracting. Google Instant also impacted the long tail as more people gave up typing in longer phrases & went with the suggestions.
Around a year ago, Google introduced their new database architecture, Caffeine. This changeover was done for several reasons, the first of which was to allow Google to continue to index all of the web in years to come, and the second of which was revealed last week: Instant.
The main issue with Instant, from Google’s perspective, is that it generates between 7-10 times the volume of searches per second than the previous version, as Google loads search result pages constantly as people are typing. With the expected rollout of this into browser bar-based searches (like the Chrome bar, the Google toolbar etc), this will almost certainly expand steadily from only appearing to logged-in users, to being the default state for Google.
Ten Blue Links?
So, the main upshot of the changeover to the Caffeine system is that it allows for vast amounts of real-time data to be added to the index almost as fast as it’s created. But what does this mean in terms of rankings?
Well, in short, it allows fresh data to be displayed to users much more rapidly. As a result, we’ve seen greater emphasis on results featuring video, location-based services, news items, personalised results and the like over the last year. This has had the effect of changing the strategy for SEO in certain industries, as it has created new avenues for search marketers to reach their intended audiences.
Instant Coffee Anyone?
A lot has been written about Instant over the last couple of days, some of it accurate, some of it less-so. To save time, I’ve compiled some basic takeaway points as to the nature of Instant, what it brings to the table, and how it affects SEO and PPC.
- Does Google kill SEO? No, but it does change keyword research slightly, as marketers need to pay greater attention to the suggested keyword searches
- Negative keywords need to be paid closer attention to in PPC, as a search for “U2 new” will return results for “U2 new album”, where a user might type their full query as “U2 new zealand tour dates”
- PPC ad impressions will only count when:
- the user clicks anywhere on the page after beginning to type a search query
- the user chooses one of the predicted queries from Google Instant
- the user stops typing and search results are shown for at least three seconds
- The nuts and bolts of how SEO is conducted on-site and in linkbuilding hasn’t changed
- The nuts and bolts of how PPC is conducted hasn’t changed either, although it is now pretty much the only good way of getting impression data for search volume numbers for keywords. Keyword tools will soon be relegated to being only useful for generating keyword ideas, not for estimating volume
To increase traffic to your website is of course a major part of an online marketing strategy but don’t overlook the importance of what your visitors might be experiencing when they get there. Afterall, high volumes of traffic are useless to you if these visitors are not converting. There can be many factors to consider when looking at low or falling conversion rates.
Little glitches or errors will frustrate the user and more than likely turn them away; like a search function that doesn’t work properly or a slow loading page. Worse still, a shopping cart that fails to add the products or forms that have errors.
There is one particular tool that you may find very helpful for looking at how your visitors are interacting with your site and in particular handling your forms. Have a look at www.clicktale.com
Broken Links between pages or image links that go to the wrong place will not inspire confidence in the potential customer.
Poor Quality images of products will not show them to their best advantage or entice people to buy.
These are just some of the reasons visitors may exit your site and seek out your competititor. It is important to have your usability testing done by someone who is not already familiar with the site as they will pick up navigation issues for example. A new user will really tell you how intuative or easy it is to buy from your site.
Remember too that webusers can be fickle and unforgiving as they scan for the results they want. They also have increasingly high expectations making them harder to satisfy with sub standard websites. Don’t make them search too hard or make them fill endless forms or they will quickly loose interest. Website usability testing finds out how much time users might take to search for a particular product or item on your site; what are the difficulties faced by them while conducting the search; do they face any problems related to your website design and features, such as navigating from one web page to the other, opening up links, downloading images or content, and the like.
In a nutshell, website usability testing is an approach to calculate the ease-of-use quotient of your site. Here at SIM we have perfected a system of usability testing that has been invaluable to our clients. Give us your target audience demographic and we can arrange for comprehensive testing of your site with a full report.
Based on the website usability testing analysis, you can then apply the changes and correct glitches and errors in the knowledge that you will be improving your customer’s experience.
The credit crunch isn’t going to dent the volume of sales made online this Christmas, in fact its more likely to bring increased sales as people search for bargains. The season starts early on the internet so now is the time to ensure your site is ready for all those lovely visitors.
Here are some tips to get your website ready for Christmas:
- Have Special Offers on your home page – not too many to overwhelm people but enough for them to see that these are great deals. Think of offering loss-leaders and products that will encourage sales of additional products.
- Have Featured Products on your home page – these get indexed by the search engines quickly and attract more attention from browsing visitors.
- Make your Delivery Policyvery clear – free delivery under X £££s and say how many days it will take to arrive. At this sensitive time of year make it very clear what is your last date for ordering to ensure delvery by Christmas
- Can your Images be improved? Great images sell product, its a fact!
- Make sure shoppers can easily find your Returns Policy – it will give them confidence that you have their interests at heart.
- Make your shop window Seasonal – the same way that shop windows in high streets are decorated for Christmas your website shop front can do the same to inspire that seasonal spirit.
- Customer Service is essential, especially as the big day approaches – make sure people feel they can get the support they need. A phone number is ideal and online support is also effective for demonstrating that your website is attended. We recommend Provide Support for this.
- It may sound obvious but do your visitors know what you sell? I have seen many ecommerce websites that sell such an eclectic mix of products that its really not clear where they are positioned. You have only 3-5 seconds to make a good impression and grab your customer’s attention so don’t confuse them with anything – keep it really simple.
Good luck for the coming season – CapGemini recently predicted that online sales in the UK will increase by 60% in the three months up to Christmas so this is definitely the time to be paying attention to your online marketing strategy. Give us a call on 0845 838 0936 if you are interested in driving more traffic to your website this season – there is a very good chance we can help you quickly.
As the singularly most important thing that the vast majority of websites want to achieve it is essential that you measure your conversions from all your different sources. If you don’t care whether your website brings you conversions then this post is not for you.
However, if you want your website to make you money… read on! Continue Reading
The Adwords adverts displayed when searches are made on Google are clicked by around 35% of users making this a very significant area in terms of traffic. Our clients who use Pay-Per-Click consistently make profits each month from advertising on Google Adwords. Continue Reading
To gain top listings in the search engines it helps if you understand how the search engines work with your website and how they determine which websites get to appear at the top.
Search engines uses robots (other names are spiders or crawlers) which are programs that visit websites by following links from one page to another. When a robot visits a page it will take a copy of that page and put it in the search engine’s own database (this process is known as caching a page). Once in the database the search engine will apply their algorithm to tag or index the page so that its position in the SERPs for any given search term can be determined quickly.
Website pages need to be indexed regularly in order to stand any chance of performing. Each page on a website that is indexed can be produced in the SERPs so every indexed page should be considered to be a potential landing page. You can easily block any page that you do not want to get indexed and concentrate efforts on optimising important landing pages.
The algorithms used by the search engines take into consideration many different factors (Google has about 200 factors) when they evaluate a page and decide where it should appear in their results pages. SEO considers each page on a website and applies the best fit to get the best ranking for that page amongst its competition. However, competition for different phrases is not equal and so the same thing that is successful for one page is not necessarily effective for another page.
Search engines want to provide the best and most relevant results for their users and so our efforts are concentrated on meeting the demands of the algorithms through white hat methods. With Google having up to 85% of the UK search market we tend to favour Google’s algorithm which in turn favours good quality content combined with quality, relevant inbound links. These clean strategies also feed Yahoo’s and MSN’s algorithms too.
For competitive market places it is harder to get top rankings for generic product and service related search terms because other websites have fought hard to get to the top and will defend their position against newcomers. With the right strategy, over time, top listings can be achieved but we would argue that the value is in the conversions achieved and conversions can come from a much wider source than the immediately obvious generic phrases.
Approximately 80% of searches performed every day are unique and many use 3, 4 or 5 word phrases, they are quite specific phrases and so they tend to convert well – this is commonly referred to as the “long tail” of search and its value should not be underestimated.
Our approach to optimising our client’s websites be to develop a two-pronged strategy that aims for the top competitive search engine listings and also top listings for a wide variety of long tail search phrases. We know that the bottom line for our clients is to make more money so that is what we help them do.
If you are interested to know more about how the search engines are working with your own website you can conduct your own mini website SEO audit. Follow the simple steps and you will find the answers to the questions below, you can also so the same with your competitor sites and see what you can learn to improve your own site.
Is my site indexed by the search engines?
How many links do I have pointing to my site?
What are my Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPs)?
What do my meta tags look like?
You can do SEO on your website yourself and we encourage clients to have an understanding of how we work but doing your own optimisation is much like fixing your own roof – you can buy the tools, read a book and have a go… it will cost you time and energy and it may get the result you want, or you can leave it to the professionals and go do something else that is a better use of your own time.
In search engines results pages (SERPs) a single listing for a popular phrase will bring you traffic if it ranks high enough. However, having a second indented listing just under that main listing doesn’t just stand to bring you 100% more traffic, it could bring you as much as 200% more traffic. Its all to do with the way that people view the search results, fixate on ceratin points and click through to your website.
Studies of indented listings using heap maps show that where the primary listing is popular the indented listing is more popular, it gets more fixation points and more clicks than the primary listing does. You don’t have to have a number 1 primary listing in order to get an indented listing, you can get this listing at positions 8 & 9, at positions 4 & 5 or positions 23 and 24, it doesn’t make a difference where your primary listing appears. You want the highest possible listing, of course you do but my point is that you don’t have to be number one to achieve an indented listing.
An added bonus is that double listings can also help to increase your ranking positions and push you up the search engines results pages.
How do you get a double listing?
The primary listing is the page on your site that is deemed most relevant to the search phrase and the second listing is the page that is deemed second most important – the key is to find out which is the second best page for that phrase. Double listing’s only show when both pages are ranked on the same SERPs page so – SEO TIP – change your preferences on Google to show 100 results in the SERPs (the default is 10 per page), use the ‘find’ function to locate your website and see if you have a double listing showing. If you do then the second URL is the one you need to work on to strengthen the optimisation for the search phrase you are using.
When millions and millions of searches are performed each day its probably surprising to find that 85% of the search terms entered in the search engines are unique. These unique search terms are gold for ecommerce websites and good optimisation will target the broad range of unique searches as well as the shorter more popular terms. The aim of a long tail search engine optimisation strategy is to increase conversions by being in front of visitors at the point they are ready to buy.
How Consumer Search Behaviour Works
Let’s take the example of Jason who wants to buy a lawn mower and consider his search behaviour as an average online consumer. First Jason might search for “lawn mowers” to research the options that are available. “Lawn mowers” is a popular search term and it would be great to hold that number 1 position for that search term but its most likely that Jason is not ready to buy yet, he is just researching. He won’t just look at one website, he will look at at least 2 or three sites and he’s looking to gather information in order to refine his search.
His next search might be to add another word to his search such as “electric lawn mower” or “petrol lawn mower” and he may be looking for reviews at this point. More and more consumers are turning to user-generated content in the form of reviews and recommendations in order to inform their decisions. Jason’s research leads him to favour a particular brand and so his search term becomes “Qualcast electric lawn mower” so that he can consider the different models and which would best suit his needs.
The final stage of Jason’s search is when he has decided exactly which model he wants and this is the most important search because now he is ready to buy. His search term is “Qualcast Suffolk Punch electric lawn mower”, this is a long tail search because it contains more than 3 words and is not a popular search term that is used often – it is gold to the supplier who comes top of the search engines for this term at the point Jason wants to buy.
Think about your own search behaviour, isn’t this fairly typical of what you do yourself?
Steps you can take to optimise for the long tail:
As a site owner, whether you have an ecommerce website or a brochure site you can benefit from your long tail visitors. Your ecommerce sites should have every level of pages optimised including the deep product pages – ensure you have a mix of specific and generic search terms and that your titles and descriptions are unique. On-page descriptions should also be meaty and interesting with lots of relevant information and benefits and of course a competitive price.
At Strategy we research the “money phrases” for your site because this is where you will make most money. We want to get you increased traffic at every level of your site and above all increased conversions – check out our Pay-Per-Results Search Engine Optimisation Services which include usability studies to increase sales.